Within one week, we had amassed robust support, a solid campaign team and a comprehensive platform. We were certain that we had a good campaign, and we were told that we even had a shot at victory. All we needed was to ignore the rules, and play the game that the GUSA election has become. We weighed the situation carefully: we were the fresh-face candidates, the candidates whom our supporters hoped would bring reform to GUSA. But in order to even have a chance at bringing some straight-shooting to office, we would have had to run a dirty campaign; we would have had to act with flagrant disregard for the spirit of the rules that were themselves flawed. Was it worth it? We decided that it was not. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “A little integrity is better than any career.”

Our 10-day foray into the GUSA campaign malaise was not for nothing, though. We realized a few things: we love Georgetown, and we want to see her have a stronger student government. And we believe a stronger student government arises from the students’ ability to choose great leaders, regardless of their background in GUSA politics.

Our concern is that students will forever be denied this opportunity in the future, since the existing campaign rules effectively work to the benefit of the candidate who knows the loopholes, and knows how not to get caught using them. The general approach in the campaign as to what constitutes fairness seems to be “It’s not cheating unless we are caught and you can prove it!” Playing strictly by the rules is asking to be overtaken by others who break them.

The election commission is charged with ensuring a fair campaign in which the ideas and candidates are running, not their tricks and games. The members of the commission do as good a job as they can, but their hands are tied, since it’s the rules they enforce that are the problem.

First, the rules need to be simpler. The more complicated they are, the more loopholes there are to exploit, and the more exploitable loopholes there are, the more the rules will favor the candidates who are better-versed in campaign legalisms.

Secondly, the rules need to be positive, not negative. Rather than dictating what things cannot be done, the rules should specify exactly what can be done. For example, one current rule mandates that candidates not put up flyers before campaign week. But if you know your loopholes, you know that you can still use classroom chalkboards, even though this is neither kosher nor in the spirit of a fair campaign. Why do the rules not simply say, instead, that “all communications before campaign week must be limited to chalkboards, [and wherever else].” The understanding would then be that anything outside these parameters would be inappropriate and not allowed. Candidates would be restricted to what they could do. There would be fewer loopholes, the boundaries would be clearer and the campaign would be fairer.

Thirdly, there is no point in having rules that cannot be enforced. Rules limiting the use of e-mail are well-intentioned, but they are extremely punitive to the candidates who actually abide by them, since their counterparts who choose to violate the policies will almost certainly benefit.

We urge the successful candidates, whoever they may be – and however they may have won the election – to remember that students’ interests are best served by ensuring fair elections in which qualified candidates of all backgrounds may participate without breaking rules. We urge them to remember to reform the election rules once they are elected. It should be a top priority.

And, until that election reform is accomplished, we urge our campaign core members, our friends and all other students to make this a better place in other ways, whether by picking up a littered newspaper, calling in a maintenance problem or by getting involved in a helpful program or service project. There are other and better ways to serve Georgetown than through GUSA.

We hope that our withdrawal will make it possible for the remaining candidates to apply their intelligence, ambition and drive not on cheap and dirty tactics to get elected, but to the generation of positive ideas whose implementation will be for the betterment of Georgetown.

May the best man win one day.

Kyle Brown and John Gahbauer are juniors in the College. They are former GUSA executive candidates who withdrew from the race on onday, Feb. 10.

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